You may hear of French Press from coffee enthusiasts. But you may not know it has a history of 100 years with various iterations. It is a timeless mechanism for making coffee.
This coffee maker is called French Press around the world, however, it has various names in different countries. In Italy, the press is known as a caffettiera. It has a name as a Stempelkanne (“stamp pot”) in Germany. In New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa, the apparatus is known as a coffee plunger. Its French name is cafetière à piston rather than French Press.
For its origin, people may be confused by its name. The current design was actually invented by Attilo Calimani, an Italian.
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Why Choose French Press Over Other Makers
Generally, you don’t want to waste lots of time when you are about to go to work. It takes an hour for you to prepare a cup of coffee, you may just give up. For French Press, you will need around 10 minutes to get a few cups of coffee. The time it needed is short.
You may say that if you have an automatic coffee maker, the time it takes will be less than 2 minutes. However, firstly, an automatic coffee maker is expensive. Secondly, taking care of this kind of machine is not as easy as just pressing the button on it. Third, it still needs some practice to get you a good taste of expresso.
Some people may say drip coffee maker is also a choice. Indeed, it is if you don’t take the taste and flavour into consideration. For people who just want a normal taste of coffee, just go with a drip coffee maker. If you a rich and strong taste of coffee, a French Press will be your choice.
Besides, there will be much joy when you are experimenting with French Press coffee maker. You will get to know how to make a cup of good coffee from grinding to the theory of coffee.
The Simple Structure of French Press
There are 2 parts of a French Press, i.e, a carafe and a plunger assembly. Its design is simple but elegant.
When come to choose what kind of material for the carafe, you may need to know the point below before choosing one. The French Press carafe could be made from stoneware, stainless steel or plastic.
- Borosilicate Glass: This special material is a type of glass that is more resistant to thermal shock than any other common glass. It can withstand temperature differentials without fracturing about 165 °C (329 °F). That means it will be hard to be broken up with hot water. However, the same as normal glasses, it is easy to tear it apart if the French Press is fallen from your desk or table.
- Stoneware or Ceramic: Having the same kind of ability to endue high thermal shock as borosilicate glass, this material looks more beautiful than the glass, with different colours. However, it is often more expensive than the glass one. Hence, it is not easy to find it in the store. Well, it is also easy into pieces if you drop them off your table.
- Stainless Steel: You may wonder if what material could resist high thermal shock and also retain a firm structure that it would be hard to turn into pieces while falling from the table. The first answer is stainless steel. It could also have some colourful patterns on it. If you feel bored about the ceramic or glass carafe. You can choose this one. Most of them are double-walled and vacuum-sealed, it will keep your coffee hot for hours.
- Plastic: This material looks almost the same as glass, but won’t flatter your kitchen floor. However, you should choose styrene-acrylonitrile (SAN) and BPA( bisphenol-A ) free plastic. SAN is a kind of durable material. It also resists high thermal shocks. Avoid BPA to reduce negative health impacts. BPA will be leaked from plastic while in hot conditions or while washing. Since you will drink hot coffee and wash your French Press, you shall choose a BPA free one.
Simple by its design, French Press’s main mechanism is on its plunger which brings you a good taste of the coffee.
- Plunger: The plunger is connected with a handle, which you will use to plunge gently for brewing. You will also use it to clean your carafe by pumping water. The name of the plunger may remind you of a stubborn sink to drain. Yes, it is almost the same mechanism. However, this time, you will plunge gently to good taste 🙂
- Filter Screen: At the bottom end of the plunger, you shall see a filter and disc. If your grinders are too fine, they may escape from the filter, and your coffee will become gritty brew. Some manufacture will place at most 4 stainless steel filter to ensure the grinder stay at the bottom of the press. However, you shall confirm that your grinders are coarser enough. Coffee oil is acid. You shall clean the filter after you finish brewing. Otherwise, even the filter is stainless, the oil will still erode your filter.
Coffee Brewing Phases Basic
There are three phases of coffee brewing. Having a deep understanding of the phases will make your brewing a lot better.
The main purpose of wetting the coffee grinds is to get the CO2 out of the coffee cell. During the roasting, CO2 has just entered into the cell. It is the by-product of the roasting process. Unless you make a dark roast, those CO2 will just be trapped in the cell for a long time and not easy to get out. Having dark roast will be an efficient way to let the CO2 get out in just a few days.
But why do we need to push the CO2 out of the cell? The reason is simple, we need the water to be closer to the cell. That will let the dissolution easier. And you will have a better flavour and taste.
Stir and wait for 30 seconds will be the easiest way to let the CO2 come out.
Dissolution is a process to let the solubles in the beans’ cells to be dissolved. There is a piece of knowledge and a technique here for brewing: the pleasant substances in the coffee cell are easier to be dissolved in the water than the unpleasant-tasting substances. So the timing to stop the brewing is very important. Brewing for too long will give you a bitter and gritty taste of the coffee. It is an art and science.
This process could also be called osmosis. It is a way to drive the substances out of the coffee cell. The coffee cell is a permeable membrane, The osmosis pressure of the two sides will be inequal after dissolution. Hence the solutes will be taken from one side to the other side.
Why French Press Is Better Than Dripping
The main difference for French Press and Dripping is the time the water flow into the coffee and the pressure it pushes on the coffee cell. Recall what we have learned in the phases of coffee brewing:
- A longer wetting time and stirring time will drive more CO2 from the coffee. Therefore, it will make the dissolution better. Dripping has a short wetting time and no stirring.
- Dissolution needs time to take pleasant substances to be dissolved in the water. Dripping has a very short time of dissolution.
- Diffusion will push the substance out of the coffee cell. Dripping has very low pressure.
So now you see why French Press is better than Dripping for coffee taste. It is all about time and pressure.
How to Use French Press
Now let’s try it at home and turn our theory into magic.
- Prepare a coarse grind. Recall in the structure part, we have said that the filter will let fine coarse to be out into the water. However, there shall be a balance for how coarse the grind shall be. You will need to adjust it after the whole process is done. If the coffee tastes week, grind a little finer later. Otherwise, grind a little coarse. A good water-to-coffee ratio is around 16. That means if you have 16 grams of coffee grind, use 275mL water.
- Warm-up your French Press using the boiled water. Just pour over the Press, this process is to ensure the Press will not make the boiling water cooler in the next step.
- Start your clock. Well, your smartphone is enough. Put the grind into the French Press. Pour your hot water into the French Press. Recall the wetting process, you will need to stir the water after you pour the water into the Press to ensure the CO2 are out. Some people may suggest that you should pour a little bit and then stir for a while and then pour again and repeat. This is not necessary. One time stirring is enough for driving out the CO2. The temperature of the water shall be taken into consideration if you have dark-roasted coffee, it shall be 15 °F lower because they have less CO2.
- Wait for 3-4 minutes. The time here would be varied. It really depends on what kind of taste you want. The rule of thumb is if you want a light taste, go for a shorter time otherwise go for a long time. However, if you brew for a very long time, the taste may turn bitter and gritty. This process is the dissolution and diffusion. As you have learned, time matters now. You can experiment a few times to find your sweet spot for the flavour.
- Times up. You shall plunge to stop brewing. This process also involves diffusion. Pressure here will affect the taste too. Pushing too hard may get you a bitter taste. Push gently to get a better taste. Once you get to the bottom, you are done.
- Cleaning up all your apparatuses.
Simple, isn’t it? French Press Coffee will give you a gentle taste of coffee if you perform it well. Give yourself some time to practice. It shall take less than 10 minutes for the whole process.
Grind Matters for French Press
If you read the Press structure part, you shall understand that the French Press is not able to filter fine grind. Since it may all escape from the filter, it will also ruin your coffee. So don’t go too fine. You can refer to our grinder guide here.
However, if it is too coarse, your coffee will be too light. And it may also harm your French Press because they will be stuck at the filter poles. If you push too hard on the plunge, you will risk damaging your Press.
So is there a guide for the grind? Of course: go to a size large than sea salt(visibly chunky) but less than Kosher salt/regular sand.
As always, Do It Yourself is the best way to understand the grind. You shall always grind yourself. By doing the experiments, you will master the skill of making a cup of good coffee.
Well, coffee itself will give you some health benefits. It is scientifically proved.
- Coffee helps in weight loss. Weight loss means a better life.
- Overcome sleep deprivation. It will increase your alertness and reduce sleepiness.
- Headache reliever.
- May prevent gallstones.
- Drinking one cup of coffee per day may reduce the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes by 7%.
- Drinking several cups a day has proven to decrease the risk of experiencing depression.
- It can improve alertness and brain function. It may also play a preventative role in the development of Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s.
However, there are cons too:
- Caffeine may get you into sleepless. The half-life of caffeine in the human body is around 6 hours. Don’t drink coffee after 6 pm.
- Excess use of caffeine may get you into anxiety. Don’t drink too much.
- If you have high blood pressure, drink as less as you can.
How to Clean French Press
Cleaning French Press is easy. The first option will be using a dishwasher. But using dishwater may cause problems like:
- Risking breakage or glass etching.
- Filter pole will become larger.
Pros will be that is it good for occasional deep clean.
I do recommend washing by your hands. The procedure is simple and easy:
- Remove the plunger.
- Fill the carafe with water. Shake slightly to loosen the coffee on the wall or stuck at the bottom.
- Pour the water to your kitchen sink. For the coffee grounds, you can also use it as the fertilizer for your plants.
- Use some warm water and soap to clean the carafe and the plunger. Pump a few times to clean the oil.
- Use a brush to gently clean the surface.
- Rinse well, and then dry it.
You shall clean it every time after you use it. If you can control the dishwasher’s flush pressure, you can use it as often as you can unless it won’t damage your French Press.